Stokes’ latest script became the feature film “October Baby.” The national recognition opened Stokes more avenues to bring everyday stories to life.
“I believe the stories that people live every day are the most remarkable we could tell,” Stokes said.
Stokes started his own company in 1999. He knew he wanted to live in the South and be near an airport. After searching, he ended up in Birkdale Village.
“Now I’ll never live anywhere else,” Stokes said. “I don’t want to leave this place.”
Once he moved to the area, Stokes launched Tentmakers Entertainment and has produced and written more than 1,000 hours of work for television. That includes “Exploring America” for the Travel Channel, “America’s Castles” for A&E and “Peyton Manning: All Access Granted” for ESPN.
“October Baby,” however is the first feature film he’s written a script for. It tells the story of a young woman searching for the birth mother that attempted to abort her. It won the Grand Jury Prize as the Best Fiction Feature at the 2011 Red Rock Film Festival, while lead actress Rachel Hendrix also won the Special Achievement Award for Acting. Since opening in March, the movie has averaged $8,000 in each of the 398 theaters where it plays. The film will expand to 220 more theaters in the next month.
The film opens on Hannah, the main character, collapsing, leading to a diagnosis of medical problems stemming from her difficult birth. Hanna learns she is adopted and embarks on a road trip to discover her hidden past, learning valuable lessons along the way.
The story of the film actually starts with a failed television pilot. Stokes and director Jon Erwin were working on a network pilot called “Life After” about five college kids. Then they found out the network that ordered the pilot had run out of funding for new shows.
“We’d fallen in love with the cast, so we sat in Jon’s office and brainstormed for hours, trying to come up with a project to use them in,” Stokes said. “He came up with a title, ‘October Baby,’ nothing else, just a title and we went from there.”
Stokes decided the name referred to a baby that had been abandoned, so on a whim, he Googled the term abortion survivor.
“We didn’t know it was possible to survive an abortion attempt,” Stokes said. “Either the doctor or nurse has a change of heart at the last minute or the mother does. It just grabbed us.”
Realizing he needed a female perspective, Stokes interviewed 20 women that survived abortions, weaving parts of their individual stories into the fictional tale of Hannah, the main character.
When he finished the script, Stokes had another problem. He and Erwin sent it out to different companies and everyone rejected it right on the spot.
“They said it was too heavy, too polarizing a subject,” Stokes said. “We knew when we made the film it wasn’t going to be a preachy type, but no one wanted to take a chance.”
The duo started raising money in June 2009 to make the movie on their own. By May 2010, they had the necessary $750,000 in hand and the main actors casted.
The group ended up shooting the entire film within 19 days. By September 2011, they had a finished product and a limited release, with support from the American Family Association of Mississippi. As people kept turning out to watch it and the dollars kept coming in, other theaters started to add the movie. “October Baby” will be shown in 615 theaters across the country.
“When something like this happens, when a small movie can break into the top 10 gross per theater, it makes people stop and ask what just happened,” Stokes said. “Companies realize that maybe this is something people do want to see.”
Want to go?
October Baby is playing at:
Carmike 10, 299-1 Swannaoa River Road, Asheville
Flat Rock Cinema, 2700-D Green Hwy., Flat Rock
Retro Cinema 4, 2270 U.S. 74, Forest City
Sylvia Theatre, 27 N. Congress St., York, SC
Visit www.octoberbabymovie.net for more information.